Look, the forties have been going wonderfully well - 'The Third Man' (1949) for goodness' sake, and 'Les Enfants du Paradis' (1945) - and I've enjoyed the decade so much, more consistently than any of the others, indeed - that I didn't want to spoil things now. 1948 was the sole empty year of the forties (heck, the only unfilled year between 1940 and 1996, at the time of writing), and I didn't want to ruin the decade with something poor, or even something promising but mediocre. So I chose Hitchcock's 'Rope', because I know it to be good.
Now, that isn't a problem in itself, many of the films I've watched I've known and loved and chosen for their familiar merits - but this won't be the only Jimmy-Stewart-Hitchcock-thriller-set-in-a-single-room that I've seen for The Penciltonian, though this and 'Rear Window' (1954) have very little else in common. So do pardon me cherry-picking this film to fill the gap. Such an indulgence seems permissible as a reward of sorts, since I'm down to the last five empty years.
|I suspect he would humour anyone's aunt at a party,
in such a way as would amuse him.
When I first saw it about a decade ago, I was surprised by a couple of things that now seem utterly unsurprising. First, it was made in 1948 - and the only Hitchcock I knew back then was 'Psycho', from 1960. I was surprised, as the two years seemed incredibly distant one from another (though, as a mathematician would tell you, they're only twelve years apart). 1960 is very nearly the modern day, or so I thought, but the forties were practically Victorian. I'd hitherto thought of Hitchcock's career as a tiny, intense thing, all occurring in a short blurt the length of a decade, like the Beatles albums. It was the first time I started to tie films to their years, a process which led, eventually, to The Penciltonian.
|'And what would you say to some champagne?'
It is, as I say, a very fine film, and one which has aged well - there's the merit of a filmed play. It regards two young men who, as the camera starts to roll, have just strangled their friend, purely because they could. We see the remainder of their evening, as they throw a polite party, with the corpse's hiding place as a serving-table. At any point it seems they could be discovered, or else give themselves away. To an extent they seem to want to be discovered, and praised for their daring. It's extremely tense, highly dramatic, but at the same time witty and very fun. James Stewart is always worth watching, and all parts are enjoyably brought to life, except David, of course, who is dead to begin with.